Beat the Wheat: Gluten-Free Pasta Bolognese
AKA It's Like You're in Big Night and You're Cooler Than Stanley Tucci
I'm kind of obsessed with the movie Big Night. I’ve loved it since before I began writing about food and thinking about the role food plays in our lives. All the cooking, all the rushing around, the loud mouths and big stomachs, and that huge meal at the end that rendered everyone nearly unconscious: I've always wanted to host a dinner like that. The closest I've ever gotten is with pasta and Bolognese (I'll save the timpano and the other 40 courses for another day).
There are some really great brands of dried gluten-free pasta in stores. Really and truly, I love just about all of them. Still, there's something to be said for fresh pasta. It takes no time at all to make or cook, but when you can't use regular flour it can come out gummy or grainy or rubbery or something else that's just as gross and depressing. Science to the rescue! The flour combination in this recipe works well, as long as you don't skimp on the eggs. Amping up the egg ratio is the key to good gluten-free pasta.
The key to a good Bolognese? A long simmer to create layered flavors. Oh, and lamb. You could swap in ground beef if you can't find ground lamb, but if you do everything within your power to find ground lamb at the farmers market or grocery store, you'll be dancing the mambo Italiano across your dining room floor. I promise.
Hearty, without being heavy. Meaty, yet creamy. Pasta Bolognese is one of those dinners that make everybody happy … even people with celiac disease, when you make them homemade gluten-free noodles. This sauce is best over pasta, but can also be served over steamed white rice or scrambled eggs. I like to hit the sauce twice with milk and wine; it builds the flavors more slowly and yields a more flavorful, creamy sauce in the end.
Add olive oil to a large heavy stockpot or Dutch oven and bring to medium heat. Saute carrots, celery, onion and garlic in oil, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
Add ground lamb and pancetta, and cook over moderately high heat, stirring to break up the big lumps of meat. Cook until the lamb is no longer pink, about 8 minutes.
Stir in tomato paste, water, 1 cup milk, 1 cup wine, and thyme. Gently simmer, uncovered, for 3 hours. Stir occasionally. Add the additional 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of wine. Stir well, cover pot, and let simmer for another 3 hours.
Spoon over pasta.
NOTE: Sauce can be made 2 days ahead and kept refrigerated. Will keep in freezer for 2 months.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. While water is coming to a boil, make the pasta.
In large mixing bowl, whisk together brown rice flour, sweet rice flour, potato starch and xanthan gum. Add eggs.
Using a wooden spoon, stir until the dough comes together, about 3 minutes. Using your hands, knead dough in the bowl for about a minute, until smooth.
Dust a large cutting board with brown rice flour.
Divide dough into 6 equal pieces and roll them on the dusted cutting board. Re-flour the cutting board.
Press each dough ball to flatten slightly. One at a time, feed them through a pasta machine or roller set at the second-widest setting. Lay each sheet on your floured cutting board. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice lengthwise into wide noodles, about 1 1/2 inches wide. Lightly dust noodles with brown rice flour to prevent sticking. Cook pasta in boiling water until tender, about 6 minutes. Strain before serving. Serve immediately, loaded with Bolognese, and top with freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese.